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Subject: Really bad hands. rss

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David Gardner
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In the Mid-War around Turn 6 I drew a horrible hand, and I'm trying to figure out if I could have played this into victory, or if in fact sometimes a bad draw will just kill your game. I don't have time to post the whole elaborate scenario, so I'm not exactly asking to have my own play analyzed, but rather asking if veteran players see something in this scenario that reminds them of their own gameplay of Twilight Struggle, and then may feel inspired to respond.

So I'm the Soviets, I'm winning (i.e. "-5"), and my noble opponent and I had just played a whole Turn 5 with no scoring cards. My recollection was that maybe only one popped in Turn 4, as well, and we both played Turn 5 under the assumption that "the other guy must have a scoring card," and of course giggled a bit at the end to discover that in fact neither of us did.

So we deal for Turn 6.

I picked up THREE scoring cards. The other 5 cards I had dealt to me -- and I don't recall the cards themselves, had OPS of 2, 2, 1, 1, 1. In other words, in a very even struggle at that point when the board is starting to turn a bit bluer (mid-to-late stage of game), my hand is forcing me:

(1) to have to score three sections of the map, while my opponent will be playing useful non-scoring cards after me, and

(2) to score those three sections with a short hand, and one full of low OPS cards.

By the end of Turn 6, which I actually reflected on afterward and decided I'd played it pretty well and maybe even saved myself some net VPs, the score had shifted from -5 to +10, and sure enough I was eliminated in Turn 9.

Ever had this happen to you?

Is this pretty unlucky/rare, or not uncommon, in your Twilight Struggle experience?

Etc. I'd love to hear any perspective. I've only played about 5 times so far.

I love this game. --David
 
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Jason Maxwell
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In my last game I had a hand in turn 5 that included both western hemisphere scoring cards and the SE Asia one. I was the Russians and had not yet made it across the Atlantic and I had a minimal presence in SE Asia. Things weren't looking good already and any hope I had was lost at that point.

I've only played a few games so far, but the impression I get is that sometimes you just get hosed. I almost prefer playing the game on VASSAL just because if I get hosed in a VASSAL game I've only burned 5-10 minutes every so often instead of 2 hours on a gaming night.
 
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brian
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I haven't played enough to give any solid advice. In my first game, I saw a similar situation where we had a scoring drought and then I pulled 3 in the same orund. However, I had decent scoring in all 3 areas so it didn't impact me in the same way.

I would think that sometimes the bad luck of a drawing certain combos of cards could be overwhelming but I also have to think with more experience a player can minimize the damage - maybe even turn it in his favor.

I know you don't want specific advice and it is hard to analize with the limited info. But with such low scoring ops, it seems the most powerful think you could do is coup attempts. That might have lowered DEFCON and blocked him out of certain areas (possibly your scoring card areas). A few well-selected countries and decent rolls could have dropped him from control to dominance or dominance to mere presence. Sometimes those seking control focus too heavily on the battlegrounds and only have control of one non-bg country. Staging a coup there would dramatically swing the region. Even a feint into one region and then holding back that scoring card while you drop the other two might catch your opponent unawares and have him spending resources in the wrong region. It really depends on teh situation but I think there has to be silver lining to the storm clouds - even if it all you get a tiny umbrella to stop the complete drenching.
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Philip Thomas
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Well, I presume you played the Scoring cards straight away? If you leave them to the end of the turn your situation can only have deteriorated. Using one as a Headline would probably have been wise. The 2nd in Action round 1 and you've played 2 of them before the US has had a proper go.

But yeah, getting a lousy hand sucks.

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David Gardner
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I didn't headline one but did play two of them as my first two actions, eating minor losses (about three each) as that was about the best I could do. Yes, by holding off under some desperate illusion that I could play my 1 OPS and 2 OPS cards first and somehow outgain him in positioning, I believe I would have come out worse.
 
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Nicolas DHALLUIN
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It happened to me once on turn 1, while playing the US.
I had the 3 scoring cards and an average OP value around 2.
I lost the game on turn 3...
 
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Ralph H. Anderson
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My last game as the US I had two hands in a row with three scoring cards and very low ops points (there was a shuffle in between the two hands. Game was over . . . . there was no recovery.

By the way, the surest way to lose the game is to play scoring cards in the Headline phase. They will always go last and that means your opponent can use the information to better his position. This is ESPECIALLY true for the Score Europe card. I know based on sad, sad, sad experience blush

Another bad thing is if you have poor dice luck - rolling 1's to your opponents 5's and 6's just doesn't cut it.

I am still a big fan of the game - but I just have to remember to shrug off the luck elements when they go against me.
 
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John McCoy
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Luck is a pretty big factor in Twilight Struggle. If you play enough games you will definitely have some where you just can't seem to draw any good cards or make decent die rolls and thereby go down to defeat. But I think that in most cases a single bad hand can't doom a player all by itself.

Looking at David's situation, he says that he went from something like +5 to -10. Well if that's really the case then his opponent was probably set up pretty well before that bad hand was even drawn. His opponent must have been lucky, or good, in earlier turns, to have positioned himself so well. That being the case, had his opponent been the one who drew the three scoring cards and the 1s and 2s, the scoring results probably would have been just about the same. Maybe the reason David was up by 5 points going in to this turn is because his opponent was preparing himself for these very scoring cards.

So my first piece of advice for this sort of situation is don't let your opponent get ahead of you in too many different regions or it's bound to hurt you sooner or later. With that said, if you do find yourself in David's situation (sorry to pick on you David, it's not like we haven't all been there too) then I pretty much agree with the advice to play those scoring cards quickly. Yes, playing scoring cards in the headline phase can be risky, but for precisely that reason your opponent is unlikely to expect it. I've had scoring cards canceled by Defectors, for example. One exception to playing scoring cards quickly in the bad hand situation is if you think there's a reasonably good chance that your opponent might play events that will help you. Even if they're forced-discard events that in theory are supposed to hurt you. In that case it might be a good idea to hold one scoring card until the end, especially if its in an area that your opponent is already dominating where the situation is unlikely to change unless you start messing around there.

In any event, I think the key thing is to be realistic and not waste your resources on any losts causes. It can be very painful to play scoring cards without even trying to contest the region involved but if you're bound to fail either way, sometimes it's best to give up without a fight and use what OPs you have positioning yourself for future turns.
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Mike Silbey
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I usually see a bad hand every game. A hand of mainly 1s, a few 2s and three scoring cards is unusually bad. These experiences can be frustrating. Other than minimizing damage there isn't anything you can do about it.
 
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David Gardner
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John, you get a thumbs-up from me on that post. Some very good points. Thanks for the perspective. --DG
 
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Chris White
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I know this subject is old as dirt, but I want to chime in and say that, contrary to the popular wisdom, I don't agree that getting lots of scoring cards is the kiss of death. Most of the games I've played have actually gone to the player who draws more scoring cards, in fact.

Case in point: I once drew all three Early War scoring cards on the first turn as the US. Not only did I end up winning, it was actually the first game that either my regular opponent or I had won as the US. I headlined the Mideast for a wash, played Asia in AR 1 for -1 point after my opponent couped Iran anyway, and managed to play enough influence in France and the Mediterranean to dominate it by the end of the turn (I started with the usual 4/3 WGermany/Italy split).

Mind you, it helped that I had a bunch of high-ops cards to play in between the three scoring cards- including a few 3s and Red Scare, which I played for OPS. And drawing all three in Turn 2 wouldn't have been pretty. But still, having all three cards up front allowed me to negate the Early War scoring hole the US usually gets in. And I'd go so far to say that it might just have won me the game.
 
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Chris Montgomery
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vynd wrote:
I've had scoring cards canceled by Defectors, for example.


Can Defectors cancel a scoring card? I didn't think this was the case. I thought Defectors only cancelled Events, and I never considered scoring cards as an event. Any opinions on this would be appreciated. Or possibly the rules. I don't have them with me right now.
 
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Brad Engels
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cmontgo2 wrote:
Can Defectors cancel a scoring card? I didn't think this was the case. I thought Defectors only cancelled Events, and I never considered scoring cards as an event. Any opinions on this would be appreciated. Or possibly the rules. I don't have them with me right now.

Yep. It's in the text from Defectors:
Play in Headline Phase to cancel USSR Headline event, including Scoring Card. Cancelled card returns to Discard Pile. If Defectors played by USSR during Soviet action round, US gains 1 VP.
 
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Chris Montgomery
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I wonder why the USSR doesn't have a corresponding event? I suppose it simulates the fact that people hated living under the Soviet regime and defected in exchange for freedom in the West, but it's a really rough card! It comes up an average (I would say) of about three times in a ten turn game... that's a third of Soviet headliners wasted... and then again, maybe I'm exaggerating a little... but it seems to pop up a lot, and it's very frustrating as the USSR! :-)
 
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Brad Engels
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The USSR could sigh from relief, too, knowing that nothing bad is going to happen to them! Guess that's a silver lining sort of approach.
 
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Martin Stever
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cmontgo2 wrote:
I wonder why the USSR doesn't have a corresponding event? I suppose it simulates the fact that people hated living under the Soviet regime and defected in exchange for freedom in the West, but it's a really rough card! It comes up an average (I would say) of about three times in a ten turn game... that's a third of Soviet headliners wasted... and then again, maybe I'm exaggerating a little... but it seems to pop up a lot, and it's very frustrating as the USSR! :-)


Given the Soviets win 63% of the time, the idea that they should get a "missing" card because it's good would only tip the balance further outta whack.
 
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Martin Stever
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After 150+ games, I can say with certainty that a really bad hand can cause you to simply lose. Early in the game, a really bad hand will generally give your opponent the win a turn or two later, and the hand is characterized by lots of low ops cards with your opponent's events.

Late in the game, a really bad hand triggers DefCon 1 no matter how you play it.

That said, in pretty much every game you're going to get a bad hand. So don't confuse bad with really bad. Once in a while you'll get a game with 10 good hands, but man that's rare. So mastering the game is really about learning how to work through bad hands to maximum advantage AND knowing the cards well enough to minimize the liklihood of getting a bad hand later in the game.

If you pick up 3 scoring cards on a turn, it is hard to work through, but the two good options are to throw one early, just to get it out of the way, and then head fake. Then, perhaps, your opponent racks up a score in one area instead of two. Also, if you know the events well enough, you may have a clue where your opponent may give you some OPS points. For instance, you get Central America scoring and the region is inactive. As the Russians you know you may see Liberation Theology and pick up three countries. As the Americans, you might get OAS. So it may be worth hanging on to the end to see if you pick up some countries form your opponent's play.

Card tactics include moves like playing all your cards except for two, then using your opponent's event to force a discard of something you didn't want to play...like a scoring card.

Setting up future hands means cycling through your opponent's events, even if they do a little damage, to prevent them doing big damage on a future turn. This also changes the deck balance. I've had games where the permanent discard pile is +10 in one country's favor. When the cards are dealt, it's amazing how often that results in a really bad hand for the player whose cards have been cycled out.

Knowing the cards well enough to mitigate damage includes little things like working like crazy to get South Korea before the late war if you're the Soviets and staying out of Cuba if you're the Americans until Ortega has passed by.

Finally, remember that TS is a game that should be considered based on your win-loss average.
 
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Chris Montgomery
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MartinStever wrote:
Given the Soviets win 63% of the time, the idea that they should get a "missing" card because it's good would only tip the balance further outta whack.


I always wondered where that statistic came from. I've already admitted I've only played about 10 games, and out of that 10, I've only won 2. Was there some mathematical formula used to get that percentage?

I do agree that the USSR has a huge advantage in the Early Game (and therefore a better chance to end the game early), but I don't know how that translates to 63% over all. Certainly, if the USA survives until Turn 10, they have a much better chance of winning... is there some way to break that statistic down into Early, Middle, and Late Wars? I would think the longer the game goes, the better the USA does--I wouldn't be surprised at all if, in games that make it to Turn 8, that the USA player has the advantage.

I'm NOT challenging your experience. Far from that. It's just, how did they arrive at the 63% statistic? That's pretty specific. :-)

I think a HUGE part of who wins the game (even more so than in other games) is the experience disparity between the two players. All my games have been against players more experienced than me, with a relative mastery of the decks and knowing which cards their opponent most likely has. I can safely say, no matter what side I'm on, they'd probably beat me (unless I had a lot of card-drawing luck). Those two games I won? One was a forced DEFCON degradation that my opponent accidentally handed to me (a hollow victory, because I was forced to win). The other one was drawing the card that lets you win the game if you're 7 points ahead, which I drew the first turn it was available in the deck.

I'm getting better at the game, but I think there's too many variables in TS to say "X country has an X percentage chance to win." It depends on the XP of the players, the card drawing, everything. I know, for instance, that the USSR would NOT have a 63% chance to win if I played you. It'd be more like 11%. And that's just one variable.

Anyway, is there an article or something on this?
 
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Brad Engels
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If you glance around this forum there's a thread that discusses whether the soviet advantage is real or not. The stats come from a website (I think Wargameroom's) where they used about 200 tournament-style games played online. The stats were interesting; for example numbers like of all the turn 1/2/3 victories, 80% belonged to USSR. That sort of thing.

I think it's here...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1624961#1624961
 
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